BALTIMORE, Md. – After spending the last four weeks on the road, out of the country and in the home state of LeBron James, the Coppin State University men’s basketball team is looking forward to starting a three-game homestand against cross-town rival Towson University Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. inside of the cozy Physical Education Complex.
Nobody would mind if the Eagle players clicked the heels of their sneakers three times and said, “There’s no place like home,” like Diana Ross did while sporting stylish silver high heels in “The Wiz.” The Eagles have played three home games this season and traveled more than 13,000 miles.
The Eagles (4-9 overall) will stay in Baltimore for a while as they begin the first of two season-long three-game homestands. This will be the Eagles first home game since Dec. 11 when they beat UMBC, 91-71. Coppin hosts an 8-6 Towson squad that has lost all five of its road games this season. One of those road losses was at Oregon State, a place where Coppin State won in its second game of the season.
Senior forward Michael Murray led the Eagles to a 64-61 triumph at Towson in last year’s meeting with 15 points and nine rebounds. Senior guard Andre Armstrong made four of Coppin State’s 10 3-pointers in the win. This is the fourth year in a row Coppin State and Towson is meeting each other. Although the Tigers lead the series, 6-5, the Eagles have won the last two matchups.
During its 77-66 loss to Akron on New Years Eve, Coppin State was led in scoring by Murray, who scored 19 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the field. Armstrong scored 13 points, senior forward Charles Ieans added 12 points and sophomore guard Sterling Smith contributed 11 points. It was the fourth time this season, Coppin State has had at least four players score in double figures.
Murray and Armstrong have been on fire for the Eagles over their last five games. They have been the team scoring leaders. Murray is averaging 15.5 points during that span. Murray has made at least 50 percent of his shots five times this season. Murray, who led the MEAC in rebounding last season, has pulled down at least four rebounds in seven straight games. Armstrong is averaging 11.8 points. He scored 15 points against Toledo and made four 3-pointers against Akron.
One of Coppin State’s strengths this season has been its free-throw shooting. The Eagles lead the MEAC in free-throw shooting percentage (76.0). Junior guard Taariq Cephas made 36-of-40 (90 percent) of his foul shots, including 22 straight. He is one of four CSU players shooting over 78 percent from the foul line: Daquan Brickhouse (28-for-33, 84.8 percent), Armstrong (37-for-45, 82.2), and Murray (25-for-32, 78.1).
In addition to Murray and Armstrong, sophomore guard Sterling Smith(11.2 points per game) and Cephas (10.4) also average double figures for the Eagles. Smith has made at least one 3-pointer in 11 games this season. He is third in the MEAC in 3-point shooting percentage (42.4 percent). Cephas also leads the Eagles with 54 assists, which is fourth in the conference.
Towson senior Jerrelle Benimon registered his fifth straight double-double with 24 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Tigers to their 12th straight home win, a 72-64 victory against New Hampshire Monday night. Benimon has eight double-doubles on the year and 28 in the last two seasons. He has five 20-point games this season, including two straight. Benimon scored 32 points to fuel the Tigers win over Temple earlier this season.
Also, in the win against New Hampshire, senior Marcus Damas was one of four Tigers in double figures with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the floor and 3-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Senior Rafriel Guthrie and sophomore Timajh Parker-Rivera chipped in 10 points each. Senior Mike Burwell added eight points and a career-high nine assists in the win.
Overall for the Tigers, Benimon averages 17.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest. Also providing balance for Towson are Guthrie (11.5 points per game) and Damas (11.1). Towson averages 73.1 points per game.
Coppin State enjoys a week off before focusing exclusively on MEAC competition when it meets Savannah State on Jan. 11 at 4 p.m.